Fungal Chitosan I

Duration 01.04.2016 to 31.03.2019

Project Bridge Early Stage FFG

Our economic and ecological future depends on the development of renewable and sustainable products. Due to its bioactivity and biocompatibility chitin is an immensely attractive natural source for the chemical and pharmaceutical industry and thus research on chitin has gained increasing interest. Especially chitosan displays improved physicochemical properties and exerts a high applicability in medical-, textile-, food industry, agrobiotechnology as well as in water engineering.

Filamentous fungi commonly used in biotechnology. We aim to genetically engineer such filamentous fungi strains to use them as cell factories to produce and extract chitin at a commercial scale without ecological conflicts. This shall be accomplished by identifying and overexpressing genes involved in chitin biosynthesis such as chitin synthases that determine the degree of polymerization. In combination with overexpressing other enzymes involved in chitin anabolism, we aim to generate fungi with high chitin depositing phenotypes.

The required in-depth characterization of fungal chitin formation will largely enhance our knowledge on fungal cell wall synthesis, and as such yet remains to be investigated in filamentous fungi species. This is of further importance as chitin synthases are attractive therapeutic targets to battle fungal infections. Moreover, filamentous fungi are well known for their biocontrol capabilities. The majority of biocontrol agents are provided as spore solutions, and it would be therefore relevant to characterize the function of genes involved in vegetative growth and conidiogenesis, such as chitin synthesizing enzymes. Equally relevant is the role of chitosan in plant defense stimulation and thus crop control.